Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Riverside-Brookfield Landmark sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Previous political experience:
First elected as Village Trustee in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. Senior Trustee who serves as Chairman of the Zoning/Water/Sewer/Drainage Committee for 6 years.
A former member of the Garbage/Streets/Alleyways Committee and currently a member of both the Finance Committee and Recreation Committee.
Previous community experience:
I’ve been honored to aid in various political campaigns within the City and Suburbs.
Donating and helping our North Riverside Police Benevolent Association in their fundraising measures which include the “Night at the Races” & “Easter Egg Hunt”.
Lending financial and moral support to our North Riverside Firefighters Union – Local 2714 with their fundraisers which are directed towards charities such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), Girls Scouts of America, Wounded Warrior Project and supporting the North Riverside Little League Program.
Helping and Volunteering for the Recreation Department during festivities and events.
Donating and Volunteering for the March of Dimes, Make a Wish Foundation, Red Cross and the American Heart Association.
The Co-Owner of the North Riverside Smokehouse Inc. which recently celebrated its 37th Anniversary in our beloved Village of North Riverside.
I have also been honored to be elected twice as Village Trustee since 2011.
High School Diploma – Saint Patrick’s High School
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Degree – Elmhurst College
(Double Major in Political Science & Sociology)
What is the present state of the village of North Riverside’s financial situation? What is being done and what can be done to ensure its long-term viability and make it more resistant to downturns in sales tax revenues?
The Village is currently $56 Million in debt (and growing).
Large scale contracts continue to receive no bids and are awarded without competition by majority vote or Mayoral appointments.
None of the fiscal year surpluses have been earmarked towards paying off our ever growing deficit. There are only fixed amounts directed towards debts that neglect interest rates or the notion of paying off debt early.
Efforts to privatize the Fire Department have been unsuccessful and more importantly, very very costly.
We have (the Municipal Village Party) outlined cost-effective solutions in order for the Village to sustain any economic downward spirals (like in 2008). Focusing on 12-hour shifts, creating traffic enforcement units and detailing Officers out to HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas) for our Police Department which has shown to be lucrative and successful in many other communities.
Instituting the Silver Spanner Program that has provided savings for other towns such as Berwyn and Franklin Park. Also, the Village has denied any efforts in utilizing federal grants provided by the S.A.F.E.R. program that will fund the hiring of new Firefighters (with expenses paid) for 2 years.
It has not been advertised on how much the Village has spent on privatizing the Fire Department but we can only estimate that it has surpassed six maybe seven figures.
Creating a Chamber of Commerce where local Business Owners, influential Residents and strategists work together to not only market and advertise the Village, but also promote growth to increase sales tax revenues. It won’t cost us a penny.
What is the realistic long-term solution for the North Riverside Fire Department? Does that future include a hybrid contract paramedic/union firefighter model? Wholly union? Wholly contract? How do you think your preferred model can be accomplished given the experience of the past two years?
A wholly Union Fire Department with a contract that initiates a Silver Spanner Program, a S.A.F.E.R. grant and an incentive package to Employees with 20+ years can show more savings rather than unsuccessful measures to privatize the Department. Moving towards a future possibility in the creation of a Fire Protection District would be the ultimate “legal” solution to saving the tax payers money as well as providing quality Fire/EMS services.
How much have we spent on legal fees for privatization from the summer of 2014 until now?
Who is in charge of the building department right now? How are building department matters being managed right now, and how should they be managed in the future?
As I understand it, our Director of Code Enforcement (Karyn Byrne) is still heading the Department but only works 2-3 days a week. The Fire Marshall (Ken) and the Assistant (Michelle) are picking up the slack.
We have a contracted company performing building and health inspections (two contracted individuals), a part-time plumbing inspector, a Fire Marshall and an Assistant.
I don’t understand why we cannot hire one or two people to perform all duties for the Department.
Now that a major road improvement project has been completed, what is the next important public infrastructure project for the village? How should it be funded?
Major road improvements (after over 15-20 years in most cases) have been accomplished due to political pressure from political opponents of this and previous Administrations.
Streets that have been in horrible conditions have been repaired. Others that are in mediocre stages will need to be addressed in the future through grants such CDBG’s (community Block Development Grants) and other State/Federal grants.
More importantly, the next infrastructure projects should primarily focus on water quality, flooding and sewers. Cure-in-lining, sewer separation projects and 50/50 Village-Resident flood control device installments should be our main focus. Accomplishing and passing a Flood Mitigation Plan (which the Village never had and I led to establish) qualifies the Village to receive grants for flood protection measures from FEMA and the IEMA.
With respect to funding water/sewer projects, the Village could never fund any major projects due to a consistent 20 year loss in water revenues. Since the money that the Village makes from water is directed towards maintaining our water and sewer infrastructure. The likelihood of that fund financing any projects have been dismal and unattainable until now.
Would the village benefit from a comprehensive planning process, perhaps as part of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning a la Riverside and Brookfield? If not, why not?
Before we submit to any comprehensive planning process, we need to first initiate a Business Development Group or Chamber of Commerce. Only then, can we sit down and have a discussion on whether to move forward with this respective planning process.
Do you support red light cameras? If so, why? If not, how would you replace the revenue from cameras now earmarked for pension obligations?
I have never been of fan of red light cameras and voted against all measures to introduce them to the Village. Although they do create a good deal of revenue, we cannot become reliant on this source of revenue due to the declining performances that occur year after year. We were projected to make $1.9 million and only produced $1.3 million. That is a 32% loss and there will be considerate declines over the years. Unfortunately, we cannot measure the negative impact these cameras have on consumers boycotting or avoiding our major streets around our Business District. I would survey the Residents and Business Owners to acquire a consensus on the future of red light cameras in North Riverside.
Traffic counts and sales tax revenues are down in and around our Business District. We cannot continue to afford these loses. We need to increase traffic counts and rejuvenate our sales base for our Business District which in turn generates more sales tax revenues.
What are the other important issues facing North Riverside in the next four years? How should those be addressed?
A) We need to focus on reducing our $56 Million (and growing) deficit. At this point, we have set amounts to pay for GO (General Obligation) Bonds and Debt Certificates. It’s similar to owing a $1,000 on your credit card and making a minimum payment of $25. We need all surplus money to be focused towards paying off debt.
B) There are too many no-bid contracts being awarded. There has been Mayoral appointments’ such as Village Attorneys and Village Engineers along with the majority of the Board approving other large no-bid contracts. This process needs to cease and desist immediately. We need to allow the free enterprise system to administer competitive prices for services in order to save money.
This doesn’t necessarily mean we will get rid of a specific company or service, it just implies that we need to put Residents and Business Owners first in order to find more lucrative and alternative ways to save money.
C) A Flood Mitigation Plan (which incorporates a Flood Hazard Plan) has been adopted but needs to be implemented to the fullest. This Administration has never made flood protection measures a priority. I intend to make it a priority.After thoroughly telescoping the entire Village’s sewers and identifying our strong points and weak points; cured-in-lining for our sewers is the best and most cost-effective solution. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) just completed one stage of lining a large sewer line on 1st Avenue between Cermak Road and 26th Street. We will perform those measures on a smaller scale and begin to implement this procedure on a few Avenues in town. The process consists of a resin-saturated felt tube made of polyester, fiberglass cloth or a number of other materials suitable for resin impregnation, which is inverted or pulled into a damaged pipe. This along with sewer separation and sewer redirection projects are imperative for flood protection control.
D) Incentive packages for Village Employees (both Union and Non-Union) that have worked for the Village for over 20-25 years will be offered an incentive to retire. These current Employees are what we call “Tier 1” employees and receive Gold package health insurance plans, post-employment health benefits (for themselves & their spouses) and of course a higher salary for their tenure. It would be cheaper to offer an incentive package and then hire “Tier 2” employees who will be receiving a Silver health insurance package or HMO package for health benefits (still great benefits), they won’t be eligible for any post-healthcare retirement benefits, but rather an HSA (Health Savings Account) and they will start off at a lower salary. The Village of Lombard is currently initiating this program and plans to save near or over $3 million.
No Village Employee (both Union and Non-Union) will be forced to retire; this is just an incentive package that will save us money in the long run “if” any Village Employee chooses to take part in the program.
E) Financial transparency must be provided to all tax payers of North Riverside. We must provide “detailed and transparent” financial reports each fiscal quarter so that all tax payers can view exactly where every dollar is being spent. Publishing these reports on the Village’s website and making them readily available for all to view at the Village Commons or Village Library is of the most importance. For each and every purchase of good and services, there will be detailed and itemized explanations for every single dollar. Board List of Bills will never be so vague. More itemization, more details and more transparency will be accomplished.